Probably a good way to start this conversation is by telling each of their basic definitions. STIGMA is when someone sees one differently because of their mental illness. And now for DISCRIMINATION, it is when someone treats and or does something negative to another individual just because they have a mental illness. Sounds similar, but they are not the same. Trust me, they are similar. Please continue.
With growing numbers of violent acts and social injustices occurring now, many of us label a criminal as “crazy”. Although a person might have a mental illness, to put that on an individual creates a bad image for everyone who lives with a mental illness each day. Yes, that is STIGMA. In reality, someone that deals with their mental issues is more likely to be a victim, then be an aggressor. By calling any person “crazy” can and does spread a stereotypical environment that creates STIGMA between the Criminal Justice System and the Mental Health System.
DISCRIMINATION comes in a variety of fashions. Whether it be someone getting selected by a college or university, or choosing the best person for employment, there is DISCRIMINATION. Look folks this still prevails all over our society. One might think that mental health care with its myriad of services and medications are not immune. Pun intended. See what I think leads many offenders that deal with some sort of mental illness to a life of stealing and killing is closer to the reason why many individuals are either underemployed or unemployed. Once again, it is our good friend DISCRIMINATION.
Of course, this is not really a friend of mine at all. Up until lately, one might think DISCRIMINATION did not occur as often. But it did happen. Even once is too much. Now we see why it’s not a friend of mine. Both terms, STIGMA, and DISCRIMINATION need to be eradicated from our cultures, once and for always! It’s a long process, but we need to accomplish this so we can continue our trip towards Mental Health and Wellness. Every journey begins with one step. Like what Neil Armstrong stated as he stepped on the Moon surface fifty-one years ago, ” That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Of course, what was true on the Moon (and on Earth) back then, is true on the Earth today. Probably, still true on the Moon, too.
What do you say, my fellow earthlings? Is it worth our time and effort? I will attempt to do my part. What about EVERYONE else? Remember, I’m goingto find out. STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION need to be removed from our thinking once and for all! Remember, one person makes a difference, two persons make a couple of differences, and so on and so on. In my next article about STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION, I will attempt to explain how diverse media affects the two concepts. Till then, stay safe, stay well. See you in the J. PETERS blog.
Editor note: This is the first entry of a series article on discrimination by Howard Diamond.